Category Archives: Riding

Handling the Heat – 10 Tips for Better Summer Riding

The UK is currently experiencing the longest heatwave it’s had in five years. Over lots of cool water and an ice cream or two, Bridleway’s team have been discussing how we, and our horses, have been coping with this beautiful but troublesome weather.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you handle the heat when riding this summer:

  1. Change your routine
    Ride in the coolest parts of the day, avoiding the midday sun. Get up early or wait a bit longer in the evening before riding to make sure you and your horse don’t overheat when you’re out. Consider stabling your horse during the hottest part of day too, as this will protect them from the sun and pesky flies.
  2. Use fly spray AFTER you tack up
    A good fly spray is a lifesaver for horse and rider in the summer months, as it is the peak season for horseflies and midges. However, remember to only apply to your horse’s coat after you’ve tacked up – fly spray under a confined area, like the saddle, can cause irritation when your horse sweats.
  3. Choose breathable fabric for your horse
    Even when riding during the cooler parts of the day, keeping your horse dry and cool is important. By choosing a saddlecloth and girth that are made with a breathable or wicking fabric, your horse will stay comfortable. Saddlecloths made from a quick-dry fabric will draw away moisture from your horse and keep him cool. Plus, an ergonomic girth like the Contour Comfort Girth allows greater airflow and reduces moisture, minimising the risk of rubbing or chafing.
  4. Protect yourself
    Whether you’re riding in an open arena, hacking out, or just doing yard work, remember to keep yourself protected too. Stay in the shade where possible, regularly top up your sun cream, and wear breathable clothing, like riding tights or a base layer. The base layer’s moisture wicking properties will keep you feeling fresh, and longer sleeves, whilst sounding counterproductive, will protect your skin from the sun and do a better job at keeping you cool than short sleeves.
  5. Stay hydrated
    Whilst long hacks aren’t advisable during the hottest parts of the day, if you are out for a while, take supplies with you in a handy bum bag. A bottle of water and an energy bar will keep you going and help replace the nutrients and water you’ll lose when you sweat. Offer your horse water on return from your ride and don’t forget to have a drink yourself.
  6. Use a fly veil
    Your horse’s ears are a sensitive spot that flies love to attack. Keeping them covered with a fly veil can protect them from biting insects and have the added benefits of blocking noise and looking good too (especially when paired with a matching saddlecloth!).
  7. Avoid still or stagnant water
    From puddles to ponds, areas of still water are a breeding ground for midges. If your usual hack takes you near a pond, try and find an alternative route to stop your horse getting pestered.
  8. Take it steady
    A lack of rain and constant sunshine dries out the ground, making for uncomfortable footing for your horse. When hacking, try to avoid riding too quickly on hard ground or rocky surfaces. Keep to a walk or trot, as this is less likely to cause damage to your horse’s legs. Stick to an arena for your faster paced schooling work.
  9. Don’t forget the cool down
    Once you’ve returned from your ride, take your time to cool your horse down properly. Sponging or hosing him off will help bring his temperature down and a good body wash brush and sweat scraper will help make the process easier. Don’t forget to reapply the fly spray once he’s dry and pop on a fly mask and lightweight fly sheet for extra protection.
  10. Make cooling treats for your horse
    After a warm ride, your horse will need to cool down and stay hydrated. Help him by using handy tricks that encourage him to drink more, such as adding apples for him to bob for in his water trough or bucket. Another fun idea is to create a frozen horse lick with water and chopped up apples and carrot. He’ll be cool, hydrated and kept amused with his very own ice lolly!

Hopefully these 10 tips will help you and your horse stay comfortable and make the most of this British heatwave.

For all of your summer equestrian needs, visit your local Bridleway stockist or  www.bridlewayequestrian.com

Perfect Protection

For all horsey people, their trusty four-legged friend’s safety is paramount and thankfully, there’s a wealth of kit available to fit every horse, from fine-boned Thoroughbreds to chunky cobs.

However, it’s also important to consider your own safety. Rider protection takes many different forms, be it high-visibility clothing or riding hat bags to cushion your most vital piece of safety gear.

Best foot forward

Boots and bandages come in a wide range of colours and styles, and can be used for a variety of purposes, including competition, travel and training, to help protect your horse from cuts and bumps while he’s out and about. Brushing boots are suitable for daily exercise, while over reach boots help protect the bulbs of his heels. The Bridleway Fleece Trimmed Quick Fit Over Reach Boots are available with a fleece lining that reduces the risk of rubbing or discomfort.

Shine bright

Making sure you can be seen is essential while hacking out, especially on the road. A simple piece of high-viz, such as a hatband or vest, helps you to be seen up to two seconds earlier by other road users. Bridleway’s stunning range of orange high-viz clothing is designed to make you and your horse stand out while out on the road.

Buzz off

At the height of the summer, pesky flies irritate us all. Relieve the stress by kitting your horse out with fly masks, veils and rugs to reduce the risk of fly bites and to help alleviate itching. Choose from Bridleway’s range of fly rugs and team up with a fly mask to create the best combination for your horse to keep him fly free. For ultimate fly protection, treat him to a Bridleway Sweet-Itch Bug Stoppa rug, which has breathable fabric to keep him cool on a hot summer’s day. In addition, liberal use of fly spray is a good idea, and you can also buy creams or gels for sensitive areas.

Ahead of the game

Protecting your head is the first port of call for rider protection, but it’s also important to protect your helmet. Invest in a padded hat bag to keep your hat safe from dirt and damage while on the move. Many bags include pockets to store extra essentials such as gloves, which help to protect your hands and improve your grip on the reins.

Protection is priceless for both yourself and your horse, so head over to bridlewayequestrian.com for all your safety needs.

jumping success Bridleway Equestrian

Jumping success – exercises to try at home

Jumping at home is something a lot of riders enjoy, but without the help of an instructor it can be hard to know what to work on. Setting up one fence to pop over a few times on each rein might be fun for a few minutes, but there’s not much for you and your horse to learn from it. Here are a few simple exercises to help inspire you to take your jumping at home to the next level.

On the grid

Gridwork is very effective for improving horse and rider technique and confidence. A line of fences in quick succession encourages your horse to concentrate and pick up his feet, while your position is tested as the lower leg becomes an anchor, and the urge to over-fold must be resisted.

Another benefit of gridwork is being safe in the knowledge that you’ll hit every fence on a perfect stride and in a powerful canter every time. Using a grid to set you both up to a stride or two before an oxer makes trying bigger fences feel easier and less daunting.

Start with a three-bounce fence in a line, each 3–3.7m apart, and a fourth another 6.4-7.5m away to ride as one canter stride. Remember to build the fences up slowly – don’t just ask your horse to tackle the whole grid from the word go as this might knock his confidence.

A different angle

Jumping fences on angles encourages your horse to think on his feet and will give you a real advantage in a jump-off situation. After you’ve warmed him up over a couple of fences, set up a small upright in the middle of the school for ease of approach from A on both reins. Keep the place pole under the original line of the fence, but move the right-hand wing around slightly towards E. This will create an angled, corner-shape fence with a ground line that’s easy for your horse to interpret.

As your horse grows in confidence, you can create a steeper angle with the fence and even place the ground line directly beneath it to make the exercise more challenging.

Get creative

The most important aspect of your jumping is that both you and your horse enjoy yourselves. If you’ve been asking a lot of him recently with difficult exercises and competitions, why not try taking a more relaxed approach to jumping every once in a while – it’s possible to do this and still teach him something.

Instead of demanding a high degree of technical accuracy, try jumping some small yet unusual obstacles he might not have encountered before. Maybe you have some plastic barrels lying around, or some tarpaulin that can be fashioned into a makeshift water tray? Asking him to approach some new and interesting fences will not only boost experience and bravery, it’ll give you the chance to learn how to ride positively into fences he may have doubts about.

Don’t forget to protect your horse’s legs with boots when you’re jumping. See Bridleway Equestrian’s range of affordable boots and bandages at bridlewayequestrian.com.

Keep him supple with our schooling tips for hacking

Varying your riding environment is an important part of keeping your horse happy and interested in his work – you don’t want to stay at home doing the same things every day and neither would he. Using your hacking time to occupy his mind and work on any schooling issues in a fun, pressure-free environment is really beneficial, particularly if you don’t have easy access to an arena. Here are some tips to get you started

Long and low

Asking your horse to take up the contact and stretch into a long-and-low outline can be an effective warm up. Not only does it encourage him to relax into the contact, he’ll also raise and engage his back, working the muscles that support a correct ridden frame. Be sure to work him gradually down so that contact is maintained – if you just drop your reins, you’ll loose your connection.

Time to flex

Keeping your horse’s body straight and his gait forward, use your rein to ask him to flex from one side, then to the centre, then to the other side. This exercise will warm him up while testing his suppleness and obedience. It’ll also free up his neck, preparing him for any more complex questions you’ll ask of him later.

Side to side

The flat, stable surface of a quiet path is a perfect setting for asking your horse to leg-yield. This movement requires him to use his whole body and reinforces the idea that your leg aid doesn’t just mean go, but can also mean move away. This exercise requires straightness and engagement, so is a good indicator of how well he’s working. It’ll also reveal any corrections you need to make in your riding or his way of going. Make sure you check the path is clear of pedestrians both ways before attempting a leg-yield.

Shoulder showdown

Now he’s warmed up through his neck and back, you can start asking your horse to engage through his whole body by asking for shoulder-fore, Make use of hedges and fence lines to help guide your horse as you ask his front end to bend slightly away while keeping him travelling forwards. However, be sure not to allow him to over-bend.

Going in circles

Coming across an open field out on a hack is a huge bonus because you can use it as a giant school. Take the opportunity to play with the space, performing transitions, circles and changes of bend through serpentine work to encourage suppleness. Be vigilant to falling out, though, as there won’t be any fences to help prop your horse up!

Don’t forget visibility for you and your horse when you’re out and about. For high-viz and everything you’ll need out on a hack, visit bridlewayequestrian.com

Make the most of your hacking

There’s nothing nicer than a hack after work or getting out for a longer, lazier one over the weekend. But hacking comes with its own risks, so it’s important to be prepared and know what to expect.

Kitting both you and your horse out in high-vis clothing is an essential part of preparing to set off. High-vis kit means drivers can see you around three seconds sooner than they would otherwise – that might not sound like much, but at 30mph that’s a braking distance equivalent to a standard dressage arena. High-vis is also important in the event of an accident, as it will make you much easier for a rescue team or paramedics to spot. There are options available to suit everybody, from tabards and hat bands for you to leg wraps and exercise sheets for your horse. Bridleway have a great selection for you to pick from, here.

Just as when you’re driving, there are rules of the road for horse riders, too. Stay to the left-hand side and use arm signals to help other road users know where you’re going. Stick your arm out to the side to indicate left or right, or directly out in front of you with your palm up if you need to ask a car to slow down or stop. Avoid waving cars past, as you might be liable if there’s an accident, but do remember to thank them if they pass you in a considerate manner. Try to ride in single file where possible, but if one horse is skittish in traffic then it’s safer to ride two abreast with a safe, calm horse on the outside.

Here are some things to think about when you’re preparing for a hack…

  • How might the time of day affect the traffic conditions? During rush hour and the school run, traffic will be heaviest and people will be in a hurry.
  • What’s the weather like? Dark, gloomy conditions will make you less visible, even if you’re wearing high-vis, and also make potential hazards harder for you to spot, too. Wet weather will make the roads slippery, which could mean it’s harder for cars to break in time. Sunny weather can have its own problems, too, as cyclists, walkers and motorbikers hit the roads to enjoy the beautiful weather.
  • Has anything changed recently? Roadworks, construction sites or lane closures could mean traffic behaves differently to usual. Even if these changes aren’t happening on your hacking route, they could still trigger a higher volume of traffic as people try to avoid them.
  • What day of the week is it? It’s common knowledge in the horse world that wheelie bins contain equine-eating gremlins, so keep bin day in mind when you’re planning a hack. Also factor in local events, such as village fetes and sports matches, which could cause unusual sights, sounds and smells.

Bridleway has all you need to enjoy plenty of hacking adventures with your horse. Visit bridlewayequestrian.com to see our extensive range of horse and rider kit.

Improve your jumping skills

Get kitted out
Before you start jumping, it’s important that you and your horse are correctly kitted out. You’ll need an up-to-standard riding hat and gloves, and it’s worth considering a professionally fitted body protector, too. It’s important that your horse’s tack is comfortable and fits him well. He may also benefit from wearing boots to protect his legs, and reduce the risk of knocks and scrapes.

A winning warm-up
Before you start jumping, it’s vital to warm up properly to get your horse listening and prepares his muscles for work, reducing the risk of injury. Ride lots of circles and transitions, both between and within the paces, to make sure he’s paying attention. This also helps to create adjustability and balance, which are very important once you start jumping.

Strides apart
Being able to get the correct number of strides between fences is a vital skill, particularly when you’re jumping a course. To practise, set out two poles four strides apart and ride through them in canter, aiming for a balanced, even rhythm. Once you can consistently achieve the four strides each time you ride through the poles, aim to extend your horse’s canter so you can get three strides, then collect it so you can fit in five.

Gridwork is great
Gridwork is your best friend when you’re trying to improve your jumping technique. It’s a good place to build your horse’s confidence, as it’s easy for him to understand what you’re asking. Build a simple grid of three fences with two strides (10–11m) between each, and put a placing pole three metres in front of the first fence to help your horse take off in the correct place. Start with the fences as poles on the ground – trot over them a few times, then try again in canter. Once your horse can canter over the poles in a balanced rhythm, turn them into small cross-poles one-by-one, starting at the end of the grid. Don’t add in another fence until your horse is confident with what you’re asking, then gradually increase the height.

Build confidence
Don’t be tempted to put the jumps up straight away. It’s much better, and safer, to keep them small and work on improving your technique, rather than jumping a height that you’re not prepared for. Once you’ve perfected your position and your horse is jumping confidently and correctly, gradually increase the height of the fences at a pace that suits both you both – a knock to your confidence could set you back.

For all your horsey needs, visit bridlewayequestrian.com.

Managing mud fever

Managing mud fever

Winter means wet, muddy conditions and the threat of mud fever. As with most problems, prevention is better than a cure, particularly as, once your horse has had mud fever once, he’s more likely to get it again.

What is mud fever?

The bacteria that cause mud fever (Dermatophilus congolensis) commonly live on your horse’s skin without causing any problems. However, prolonged time spent in damp, muddy conditions can compromise the skin’s barriers, allowing the bacteria to penetrate. The result is an acute inflammatory reaction, usually found in the heel bulbs and the back of the pasterns. Symptoms include crusty scabs, pus between the skin and scabs, lesions, hair loss, heat and swelling.

Top tips for preventing mud fever

  1. Limit the time your horse spends in muddy conditions. Fence off areas that get muddy, such as around gateways. Rotate paddocks avoid poaching and consider stabling your horse for a period of time each day to allow his legs to dry out.
  2. Specialist boots and leg wraps can help keep his legs clean in the field. These prevent excess exposure to moisture, as long as mud doesn’t get underneath and rub his skin. Wash them regularly to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply a barrier cream to your horse’s clean, dry legs when he’s turned out to prevent moisture reaching his skin.
  4. Brushes, boots, bandages and clippers can all harbor bacteria, so clean and disinfect them regularly. Avoid sharing between horses, as this increases the risk of spread.

Treatment steps

If you notice your horse is showing signs of mud fever, here’s how to treat the infection and prevent the bacteria from spreading…

  1. Remove your horse from the cause of the infection, which will usually involve stabling him. If this is the case, walk him in-hand regularly to prevent his legs from swelling and increase blood circulation.
  2. Clip the infected area and use an antiseptic wash to soften and remove as many of the scabs as possible.
  3. Rinse the area and dry with a clean towel.
  4. Apply a topical antibacterial treatment to soothe the skin.
  5. Severe cases with obvious infection may require antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, so you may need to call your vet.

Did you know?

The same bacteria that cause mud fever can also cause rain scald. This infection tends to occur on your horse’s neck and along the top of his back ­– the areas that get the wettest when it rains. To prevent rain scald, make sure your horse is kitted out with a good-quality turnout rug and has access to adequate shelter.

Whatever you and your horse require, Bridleway is the place to shop this winter. Visit http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com to see our great selection of products.

Ready for the road

Ready for the road

Training your horse to be good to load is very important, not just for going to shows but also in case of emergencies. If you need to get him to hospital, loading quickly could be the difference between him receiving prompt treatment or not. Safe loading is therefore an important part of owning a horse, and putting in the time to get this right can help you build a bond of trust and can lead to a calmer horse who is easier to handle.

Teaching your horse to load has very little to do with the trailer or horsebox itself, and more to do with how he perceives being asked to do something he finds stressful. However, it is important to make sure you are setting him up for success. Ensure the ramp isn’t too steep or slippery and that space is big enough for your horse to comfortably manoeuvre. Make sure he isn’t over-rugged, because as keeping balance while a vehicle is on the move is hot work for a horse that isn’t used to travelling – opt for a fleece in colder weather or if he is clipped and remember he may not need a rug in winter. Bridleway have an excellent range to meet your travel needs – www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/home.php?cat=256

Protective travel boots are important, though it can take time to introduce your horse to boots if he’s not used to them. So, take the time to get him used to walking around with the boots on or consider using over-reach boots and brushing boots or bandages over pads – http://www.bridlewayequestrian.com/shop/home.php?cat=250

 

Coping with confinement

To learn to travel happily, your horse needs to cope with small spaces. He needs to know that you are there to help him and not force him into a small space that he genuinely finds scary. Fit your horse with a headcollar and a bridle over the top, then attach a lunge line to the bit rings or a bit coupling and ask your horse to approach the ramp. Let him sniff the ramp and talk soothingly to him to tell him he is doing the right thing. Make sure you don’t pull on the line and give him something to pull against. Keep the rope slack and only increase the tension to ask him to move forwards.

Next suggest he steps up onto the ramp by taking a feel on the rope. If he puts a foot onto the ramp then praise him again. If he then pulls back, stand your ground but let the rope out allowing him to take steps back. Then, once he has stopped, ask him to come forward again. Make sure you keep his attention on you and not on what is going on around him and he will soon learn that there is nothing to be gained in stepping back.

Loading practise in this way needs to be carried out when you have all the time in the world so you never put pressure on your horse or yourself to get the end result.

 

All aboard

Once your horse has got the hang of loading fully into the box, make him wait inside for a moment stroking him and maybe even giving him a treat, then walk him calmly back down the ramp. It’s important not to confine him or force him to stay inside the box, but to teach him to be more and more confident each time he loads. Don’t attempt to close the ramp or travel your horse anywhere until he loads quite happily, which will take several days, and then take him for a short journey around the block and back home. Don’t risk taking him to a show on his first outing when he might not feel confident to load to come home. After his first trip, you might have to go back to the beginning of his training and build up his confidence about loading again.

 

A calm exterior

Always work with a calm, neutral body. If you start to get angry or frustrated, your horse will pick up on it and become anxious. Loading a difficult horse can really test your patience, but patience is an important factor for getting the right result. Pressure and tricks might get him into the box but he will be just as anxious about the experience the next time around.

Put the time and effort behind the training now and don’t wait until you want to go to your first show to start the loading process. Standing in a moving tin box is an alien thing for a horse to do, so appreciate that, empathise with him and help him to overcome his fears.

Happy competing!

The Benefits of Horse Riding

If you’re looking to get fitter in 2016 here at Bridleway we don’t think there’s any better hobby to improve fitness than horse riding. Not that you’ll need a reason to hop in the saddle in the New Year, but from strengthening your muscles to keeping your heart healthy and lowering stress levels, horse riding really is great for mind, body and soul. Here are just some of the benefits you can enjoy as a horse rider:

Improved fitness

A study by the British Horse Foundation (BHF) and Bournemouth University has reported that horse riding and taking part in associated activities, such as mucking out, use up enough energy to be officially classed as moderate intensity exercise.

So there’s no need to join the crowds at the gym in January if you’re looking to improve your fitness. As a rider, simply increasing the amount or intensity of riding you do and adding a few extra chores to your list around the yard can make a big difference. Did you know that just an hour of horse riding can burn up to 650 calories*?

Strong muscles

You might take it for granted that you can remain balanced in the saddle, but this engages and strengthens all your core muscles. The faster you ride the more balance is required and the more you will rely on your core strength to stay in position. The inner thigh and pelvic muscles are also working hard every time you ride out, but don’t forget the shoulders and arms, they are focusing on telling the horse what to do and remain engaged for the entire ride – giving you an almost total body workout!

Keep your heart healthy

As well as toning your muscles, riding improves aerobic fitness too. This does depend on the type of riding you prefer – a slow canter that doesn’t put you out of breath won’t be improving your heart’s health. However, increase the speed and agility involved and you’ll be working all those important muscles and your heart too.

Relax your mind

Horse riding, or even just spending time around your horse, is a great way to de-stress. Petting an animal can actually bring down blood pressure, relaxing the body and mind, so what better excuse do you need to give your horse more affection than usual? For many people, simply being outdoors and feeling close to nature can also add to a happy and relaxed mood.

*TheHealthSite.com